The Big Picture
Who doesn’t love Ke Huy Quan? After being a beloved child actor in the 1980s, Quan zoomed back into the global pop culture consciousness with his incredible Oscar-winning performance as Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once. In this feature, Quan got to inhabit a multitude of wildly varying personalities, each of which he imbued with a similar level of impressive conviction. Hot off that unforgettable performance, Ke Huy Quan is now garnering rave reviews for his work as O.B. in Loki. It’s good time to be this actor, whose expansive career, believe it or not, even included a brief run-in with the world of Marvel adaptations long before Loki was on the radar.
At the end of the 1990s, Quan began a new age of his career where he worked in behind-the-scenes roles in major movies. The first of those projects was none other than working as an assistant fight choreographer on the very first X-Men installment. At the dawn of the modern Marvel movie boom, Ke Huy Quan was right there, helping to bring the fighting style of characters like Wolverine to life in as authentic of a manner as possible. Few artists get to work with different Marvel adaptations across so many years, but then again, few artists are quite as talented or distinctive as Ke Huy Quan.
How Did Ke Huy Quan Get Involved With ‘X-Men’?
Talking to Deadline in December 2022, Ke Huy Quan recounted how, after he graduated from USC film school, Corey Yuen approached Quan about a job on a “small” film set in Toronto. This turned out to be where the original X-Men film was shooting, with Quan dedicating nine weeks of his life to working with Yuen on breaking down the basics of a climactic Wolverine/Mystique duel in the feature. The gig established a great relationship between the two artists, which led to Yuen recruiting Ke Huy Quan for further projects and even led to this actor working as an assistant director on the 2004 Wong Kar Wai feature 2046.
That wasn’t the only way Quan’s work on X-Men ended up leading him down intriguing career paths, though. In a February 2023 NPR interview, Quan recalled how he met an associate producer on the film’s set by the name of Kevin Feige, and the duo apparently got along swimmingly back on the X-Men set. All these years later, Feige had seen Quan’s work on Everything Everywhere All at Once and rang up his former X-Men co-worker to inquire if he’d be interested in a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just try and tell Feige and Quan back in 1999, when X-Men was shooting in Toronto, where they’d be in the modern world and they would’ve called you nuts!
Ke Huy Quan’s exploits on the first X-Men were also critical even when just confined to how they impacted that initial entry in the X-Men saga. After all, X-Men was coming in at a critical juncture in the history of superhero movies. Batman & Robin had given the entire subgenre a cursed reputation and only 1998’s Blade had indicated Marvel Comics characters could headline lucrative theatrical features. This was a motion picture that needed delicate precision to be brought to life, including realizing how flesh-and-blood versions of Wolverine and Storm, among other mutants, would look duking it out with one another. Quan’s work as an action coordinator helped to make people buy the idea that these Merry Mutants were a viable entity in live-action storytelling.
The Sad Story Behind Ke Huy Quan’s ‘X-Men’ Job
In an April 2022 interview with People Magazine, Ke Huy Quan recalled how his acting career stalled out by the mid-1990s much to his frustration. Per this performer, a key problem was that acting gigs for Asian actors in America were few and far between, and what roles did emerge were incredibly insulting. Quan wanted to keep going as a performer, but without any new gigs immediately emerging on his radar, he opted to find a new career path in the entertainment industry. That’s when he opted to go to USC and engage in behind-the-scenes work in movies, including working on the original X-Men movie. These proved to be creatively fruitful ventures in their own right, but they only came about because the American film industry failed to provide intriguing acting opportunities for Key Huy Quan.
This country’s cinema and its long-running inability to offer substantial or compelling acting roles for actors of color has frustrated many performers into leaving the acting profession altogether. Looking back on Ke Huy Quan’s credit on X-Men, one is reminded of this troubling status quo and how Quan only ended up here because Hollywood failed him. Watching his work in Everything Everywhere All at Once, the mind reels at all the incredible performances from Ke Huy Quan we were deprived of simply because of the American film industry’s focus on white artists. Though on the surface it sounds like cutesy Marvel-themed trivia, this particular credit on Key Huy Quan’s IMDB page speaks to a much larger systemic problem.
Still, at least Ke Huy Quan persevered in spite of these institutional problems and cradled a passion for cinema that carried him all the way to his outstanding comeback role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Plus, his work on the original X-Men speaks heavily to the versatility of Ke Huy Quan as an artist. He isn’t just good as an actor, he can also deliver incredible work in a behind-the-scenes capacity, a fact reflected by the various production roles he inhabits in the 1999 short film Voodoo. Tracing a line between X-Men and Loki reveals just how long Ke Huy Quan’s career has been intertwined with the world of Marvel adaptations. More importantly, though, examining the connection between these two projects also reflects Ke Huy Quan’s journey through an industry where he’s been constantly underappreciated. Thank goodness he now gets to be in the limelight with all those multiversal shenanigans in Everything Everywhere All at Once and Loki!
Long before ‘Loki’ was on anyone’s radar, Ke Huy Quan worked with Marvel on another live-action property. Read More